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UK takes over Baltic air policing mission from Germany

Photo: Royal Air Force

The German Air Force detachment has transferred the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission’s command responsibility in Estonia to the Royal Air Force during a handover ceremony on April 5.

On the day of Finland’s accession to the Alliance, which also happened to be the anniversary of NATO’s formation, the handover ceremony for the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia took place at Amari Air Base.

Throughout April, the two detachments will operate jointly as an integrated force to safeguard the Baltic skies and reinforce security in the area. Subsequently, the German Air Force detachment will leave Estonia after completing their five-month service, and the Royal Air Force’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing will take over the NATO mission until August.

Representatives from NATO, Estonia, Germany, and the United Kingdom were present at the handover ceremony, which formally signified the end of the German lead in the Air Policing mission and the start of the British one.

Air Vice-Marshal Robinson, Air Officer Commanding 11 Group RAF, said “What a privilege it is for the UK to work alongside Germany to deliver NATO’s first Combined Air Policing Mission. This combined leadership paves the way for future interoperability across a broad range of Allies and NATO Partners.  We live in uncertain times, but 74 years after the formation of NATO, the skies over the Baltics are in safe hands.  NATO has also been strengthened by Finland joining the Alliance today, a significant milestone.”

“What we’ve seen here is the culmination of a long process of enhancing that level of integration, and I congratulate both detachments on this great achievement, the Estonian Armed Forces, our hosts here at Ämari, have also been a role model when it comes to integration”, commented Brigadier General Ralf Raddatz, the Deputy Commander of the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre in Germany.

General Ralf Raddatz also added “Since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and NATO responded with the Assurance Measures, Ämari has hosted a continuous series of Allied fighter detachments.  With today’s ceremony, we deliver an important message: the mission continues. This is especially poignant because we also celebrate today, NATO Day, the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949.”

For a duration of eight weeks, the two detachments will conduct Combined Baltic Air Policing together, conducting joint Quick Reaction Alert scrambles to demonstrate their tactical integration. In March, both the GAF and RAF Typhoons scrambled three times to intercept Russian military aircraft that were in close proximity to NATO airspace.